Like many others, I was super excited when Apple announced the new 12″ MacBook with retina display at a special event in March 2015. I was initially hopeful for Apple to unveil an updated MacBook Air with retina display, but better still, we (the consumers) were pleasantly surprised to receive a whole new category of the Macbook!
I preordered the new MacBook on the day preorders went live, April 10th (the same day preorders went live for the Apple Watch). A large part of my day on the 10th was spent in Brighton, collecting my race pack/mumber for the Brighton marathon, as well as visiting the Apple store to try-on the new Apple Watch. There was also the issue of deciding which specifications I wanted in my new Macbook. But I digress. I finally settled on the 1.2Ghz/512GB model and was quite disappointed that by the time I had preordered, shipping times had slipped to 3-5 weeks. This essentially meant that my delivery window was 15th May – 29th May. Bummer. Fast forward a few (long) weeks, and I finally took delivery of my new MacBook on May 19th!
Unboxing was a satisfying affair. Although I had checked out the new MacBooks at the Apple store, it was much nicer to hold my own brand new machine. First impressions were immensely positive. This is a true remarkable feat of engineering. Granted that the power of this machine is not on-par with the MacBook Pro line-up, but the smaller size and weight is a well spent trade-off, at least for me. Being a runner, I often commute with a light-weight backpack, so shaving off a few pounds compared to the 13″ rMBP (a reduction of 1.45 lbs, to be precise) will be beneficial, along with the much smaller size. Setting-up the new MacBook was a doddle. I restored from a recent time machine back-up, and within 45 minutes or so, I was up and running.
There are a number of comprehensive reviews online, so rather than drilling over the basic specifications and facts of the new MacBook, I’ll concentrate on some of the features of the product that excited me the most:
The shape and aesthetics of current MacBook Air and Pro line-ups have not changed much since their initial launches in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Sure the Pro line-up got a slimmed down redesign in late-2102, but the general shape and colour went largely unchanged. Enter 2015. The new Macbook is significantly more portable, comes in three different colours and is the first time we have seen a 12″ display from Apple.
One of the main highlights of the redesigned MacBook was the new keyboard. The backlight has received a makeover and is incredibly sharp, leads to less ‘bleeding’ of light from the keys. Also, with a new butterfly mechanism instead of the traditional scissors press, the keys have been reengineered to compensate for the incredibly thin design.
I am actually typing this up on my new MacBook, and any reservations I may have had about the new keyboard have been laid to rest. The keyboard is very comfortable to type on, and in fact a lot better than the traditional keyboard with the shorter travel and wider keys. I sure hope that Apple (and other companies) adopt the butterfly mechanism, too!
FORCE TOUCH TRACKPAD
The trackpad on the new MacBook is also noticeably larger, equipped with new force touch. The touchpad now does not depress when you click on it, but the ‘click’ is instead registered by the taptic engine which provides haptic feedback; essentially a vibration that ‘feels’ like a physical click, but is not.
The new force touch sensors are also a great new feature. The register how hard you are pressing down on the trackpad, and evoke a certain software response based on the force applied. For example, if I click on a word lightly, it will highlight the word. If I then continue with the press deeper, a click will finally register and display the definition of the selected word. Awesome! I am sure software developers will find more and more intuitive ways to harness this new technology.
USB-C is a new proprietary connection, and I assume it will eventually replace existing USB inputs/plugs. However, it is still a relatively novel addition, and the only devices I know (at the top of my head) that incorporate this new input are the new MacBook (of course) and the 2015 Chromebook Pixel. Unfortunately the new MacBook comes equipped with a single USB-C connection, which will be used for fast charging, high-speed data transfer and output for an external display.
I am actually all in favour of a single type of port to replace all others; this will actually make a lot of sense for the tech industry, as this standardisation will really help with the overwhelming number of inputs on the market. However, I would have really preferred to have at least two USB-C ports, one on either side of the machine, and knowing hoe cheeky Apple are with first generation products, am sure they will expand the number with subsequent releases. Additionally with time, it is plausible to suggest incorporation of USB-C across all Apple products, eventually replacing the traditional USB connection.
MULTIPLE WAYS TO CHARGE
The new Macbook already has a (up to) 9 hour battery life, which really is an all day affair. However, there is also the option to charge using the new USB-C port, which means that we are now free from the standard mag-safe connection. What does this mean? Well, in short, there is now more than one way to charge your device. Included in the box is a traditional USB-C wall plug and a 2m USB-C to USB-C cable. This is perhaps the quickest way to charge, but when you are on the go, there are other options.
A USB-C to standard USB cable is also available, meaning you can now juice-up with both a normal USB wall plug and even a portable battery pack! Having tried both these alternative methods, it is worth noting that charging is rather slow. In the picture below, I was charging (attempting to) my MacBook with the iPad’s USB wall plug. The charging time would vary between the messages “battery is not charging” and a long time scale of ~13 hours to full charge (from 15%).
Although the battery charge did not increase much at all, it was reassuring to see the charge icon engaged, meaning that the battery did not drop down at least. I actually wrote the entirety of this review in this state, meaning that you can definitely get by with a USB wall plug. So when on the move and if you are not in a position to carry the USB-C wall plug, it is worth keeping a handy USB-C to USB cable, as you can easily tap into the USB power supply of a wall charger somewhere. I should add that using a 10,000 mAh battery pack yielded similar results, but I would suspect that depletion of the battery pack may be a concern.
I actually purchased a USB-C to USB cable, along with a further USB-C to USB input cable (for data transfer) from the Google Play store, for £8.99 each. This is a great deal, and the black colour of these cables definitely compliments my space grey MacBook. Oh, and I am also a big fan of the “gong” noise that alerts you to charging after you connect a power source, as found in iOS devices; that was a pretty neat touch!
-Incredibly and aesthetically pleasing design.
-Light weight (0.98kg) and small footprint.
-12″ retina display.
-Comfortable redesigned keyboard.
-Redesigned force touch trackpad.
-Great sounding speaker (although I personally use a bluetooth speaker/headphones).
-Inflated first-gen premium price-tag.
-Underpowered for CPU intensive tasks.
-Single USB-C connection.
-480p camera (there is no excuse not to have at least a 720p camera).
Would I recommned the MacBook? In a word, yes! It is a fantastic little computer, that truly does cater to those who are looking for a highly portable machine. It will not be able to handle CPU intensive tasks such as heavy video editing or high-end gaming, but if you are after a portable machine for everyday work like web browsing, light photo/video editing, word processing, blogging, etc, this MacBook will fly through them. So it really depends on the type of computer user you are. For me, this will eventually be my primary machine, as the tasks I use my day-to-day computer for are not particularly demanding of the CPU. Sure I may find some slow-down with multi-tasking, but that is a price I am willing to pay for the portability of this machine. Conclusively, this is the future of MacBooks, and as Intel optimises CPU technology with the upcoming Skylake processors, things are only going to get faster. It sure is an exciting time to be upgrading your MacBook. But whether or not you decide to travel into the future early with this machine is going to be a judgement call.